By Gregorio Igartúa
The recently announced agreement between the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP by its Spanish acronym) and Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana (MVC) to support each other’s candidates, by switching their votes from the candidate of one party to that of the other, is a conspiracy in the eyes of federal and state governments to defraud the electoral laws through false representation.
The scheme is not limited to the top electoral positions, but also includes candidates at various lower political levels. Consider the MVC voting for the PIP’s Juan Dalmau for governor in exchange for his party voting for the MVC’s candidate for resident commissioner, Sen. Ana I. Rivera Lassén.
The leaders of both parties alleged that this is legally constitutional under the veil of First Amendment Rights (U.S. Const. Amend. I). It is not a case of mere free expression by candidates. It is a violation of the equal protection of the laws and due process rights under the U.S. Constitution (Amend XIV), and under the Puerto Rico Constitution (Art. II-7). In considering the political damage to the candidates of other parties not conspiring, the equal protection of the laws and due process rights are affected in the outcome of the election by the illegal agreement of the PIP and MVC leaders.
Moreover, there is a violation with respect to the public funds assigned to the parties involved, another scheme to defraud the Election Law by their interest to retain the franchise, each as an independent recipient of state funds, and by false representation of the electoral conspiracy with a quid pro quo agreement. In short, it constitutes a political-financial advantage over the other parties.
Manuel Natal, the MVC’s general coordinator, confirmed publicly that the MVC had agreed with PIP leaders to vote across party lines in the 2024 elections. Dalmau said it was an agreement to end more than 50 years of bipartisan politics in Puerto Rico. He forgot to say that in our system, either you do it under the law, or you don’t do it.
The conspiracy attempts to defraud our democratic system by manipulating the votes of the electorate, by including voting under a scheme where the support of some candidates in one party is exchanged for support for candidates from the other, and vice versa, a federal violation.
Citizens are legally allowed to vote by what is known as mixed voting, whereby an elector votes for candidates of different parties on the same ballot in the same election. Notwithstanding, an agreement between leaders of two parties to induce their members to exercise mixed voting on the same ballots for a candidate for one position in exchange for the vote for a candidate of the other party is illegal. It is an agreement to attempt to gain advantage for each other’s party candidates by defrauding the electoral process, and it becomes worse if each receives public funds.
Consider as illegal the exchange of the MVC voting for Dalmau, the PIP’s president, for governor, and of the PIP voting for the MVC resident commissioner candidate, or the MVC not registering candidates for some positions to support the PIP’s candidates in those races, and vice versa. Moreover, it is prohibited under federal voting laws, which forbid and prevent systemic electoral manipulation to create political duopoly.
Under federal law, damages are provided for cases where two or more persons have conspired to deprive any person of the equal protection of the law, or of the equal privileges and immunities of the law. In the “Alianza,” the PIP and MVC conspirators defraud the electoral process and provoke damages to the candidates of the other parties that are not part of the conspiracy or the political scheme. In this context, the New Progressive Party, Popular Democratic Party and Dignity Project candidates for governor are affected with damages by the conspiracy of the PIP and MVC to vote for Dalmau, as well as candidates at other levels. The evidence of the conspiracy can be found, and is supported, by the public announcements that the leaders of both parties have communicated, and as reported in the press.
Gregorio Igartúa is an attorney with a practice in Aguadilla.